Before the ball even swished into the back of the net, Christian Ramirez’s head was in his hands.
For the second consecutive week, Minnesota United’s leading scorer scored for the wrong team. And this time, his 84th minute own goal — after he himself had tied the score in the 66th — proved to be the decisive strike as United fell 2-1 on Sunday to the Los Angeles Galaxy in front of an announced 19,107 fans at TCF Bank Stadium.
Ramirez said it was the “worst” emotional swing anyone could imagine, going from hero to loser in such a short span.
“I hate being in that position to give that goal up,” the Southern California native said. “I’ll put that blame on myself.”
Ramirez’s own goal last week in a 3-2 loss at Toronto came while it looked as if an opponent fouled him. But Sunday, Ramirez said he had inside position on his man while defending Galaxy midfielder Romain Alessandrini’s free kick, but Los Angeles defender Jelle Van Damme grazed the ball. And as Ramirez planted his foot, the ball hit his knee and went into the goal.
United captain Francisco Calvo said Ramirez shouldn’t take all the fault, calling it just an “unlucky” incident. Fellow center back Brent Kallman traced the problem back even further than the own goal, saying his foul on Gyasi Zardes that led to the free kick wasn’t valid.
“He takes a bad touch, and he falls down. The ref gives him a foul. Whatever,” Kallman said. “And from there, it’s very difficult. Someone hits in a really nice ball like that, and you’re running toward your own net. It’s very difficult to defend. That’s why you don’t give up set pieces around your own box in the first place.
“I think me and the ref have to share responsibility on that one. That was a shame, because we had control of the second half and then we dropped the points like that.”
Coach Adrian Heath feared those dead-ball situations would be his team’s downfall.
“We spoke about the quality of their delivery from set pieces, and it was something that worried me all afternoon because they’ve got some big bodies there,” Heath said. “But the quality of Alessandrini’s set pieces, corners, free kicks, I thought would be a problem for us. And it turned out to be. So I’m bitterly disappointed.”
Heath said he thought the Loons’ defending of the box was a little “lax” and “sloppy.” Calvo said the man-to-man marking needs to be more thorough.
“Everyone here has a man [to defend] before we go on the field, and I think we have to take some responsibility out there on set pieces,” Calvo said. “If the coach tells you, ‘You have to get that guy,’ you have to get that guy until you’re dead.”
Galaxy forward Giovani dos Santos scored in the 38th minute with a flashy heel flick. Ramirez tied it in the 66th with another nice finish before conceding the own goal about 20 minutes later. But considering United had 22 total shots with six on goal as opposed to Los Angeles’ eight with five on goal, the Loons said they should have avoided making the own goal stand up as the winner.
Heath lamented how many missed second-half chances his team had, adding: “You don’t get them against good teams. And if you don’t take them, invariably, it comes back to hurt you. And that’s what’s happened today.”